Making Sense of it All

Those words caught my eye this evening as I broke my vow and allowed my eyes to scan over several articles detailing different aspects of the horror that is the massacre of children in Connecticut.  The words were part of a brief statement released by the parents of the shooter.  I have no doubt that they are struggling to make sense of it all, as is the rest of the world.  This entry is not a commentary on the particular speaker of these words in this context.  The agony of the shooter’s parents must be close to unbearable.  My heart goes to them as it does to the families of the shooter’s victims.  

It is mankind’s privilege and struggle to seek to make sense of the universe around us.  But there is something to be said for taking the search for sense too far.  

Articles by the score assure us that experts of all stripes are actively working at this very moment to unravel what happened in the mind of Adam Lanza that would prompt him to such violent actions.  I have no doubt those experts are indeed working feverishly.  I am grateful for their efforts, but I suspect that when all is said and done, whatever we do or don’t learn about Mr. Lanza won’t really matter much.  It certainly won’t change the destruction that has been wrought.  The best it can do is help some people, at some level, to come to some level of understanding about what happened. To literally make sense of it.  
Because if we can make a bit of sense of it, the horror is dulled somewhat.  And more importantly, the fear is dulled somewhat.
Without making sense of it, we are left with an illusion-shattering glimpse into the capacity of evil in our world and in the heart and mind of one young man.  That is a glimpse that fewer and people are able to handle, I suspect, as fewer and fewer people have a framework to make sense of it in.  It’s like walking along in a dark room, only to have someone flip on a light switch revealing that you are traversing a narrow beam of wood suspended over a pit filled with half-glimpsed, fully-imagined, nightmare-inducing writhing, coiling, hissing hints of unspeakable horror.  Before the light went on, you saw no reason to worry about your steps.  Now that you know how a misstep might affect you, you cannot move a single muscle.
But if we can make some sense of it, then we can assume that we are not really in danger of slipping into the abyss of darkness that overcame Mr. Lanza.  We can nullify or minimize the fear.  If we can make some sense of it, we can take comfort that we don’t know anyone personally who is suffering from such illnesses of the mind and spirit, and therefore we are somehow safer.  If we can make sense of it all, we can pull up our security blanket of assuming that now that we know what the reason was, we can prevent that reason from ever occurring again in another fragile or susceptible young mind.  If we can eliminate bullying, or medicate personality disorders, or at least prevent people from owning guns, we can all sleep safer at night.
We will have made some sense of it.  But will it really make any more sense than it does now?
In the midst of Advent we move through penitential postures and poses.  We consider our shortcomings and failures large and small.  We recognize that within each one of us is the seed of evil that waits, hoping to gain power over us.  “Sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7).  Advent calls us to recognize that we cannot master it.  We can sometimes minimize it.  We can cover it up and hide it.  We can decorate it and pretend it is something that it isn’t.  We can compare it to the evil we see or suspect in others and take comfort that the evil in us seems so much less harmful.  But it remains sinful and evil, its desire for us remains, and its hunger is insatiable.  
Advent provides the Christian with a way of “making sense” of the senseless violence of the world.  We make sense of it by recognizing that it is within all of us, in different ways and forms.  Far from comforting us, this terrifies us.  It reveals the precariousness of our lives not simply from the aspect of our tenuous or illusory self-control over the evil within us, but it reveals how dangerously vulnerable we are to the flares and eruptions of evil in those around us.  It forces us to see how a stranger coming out of nowhere can alter our lives forever.  
How do we cope with this fear?  
Denial might sound appealing, but in our hyperconnected culture it is difficult to achieve any longer. Every day brings new reminders near and far of the evil that crouches at our door.  
We can attempt to make sense of it, pretending that evil isn’t really evil but rather psychological or psychiatric disturbance.  We can try to believe that we can treat or medicate or soothe or isolate people with these particular symptoms and thereby eliminate the threat to the rest of us.  
We can opt for deliberate ignorance, which is what most of us do.  Assuming that our days and weeks will go just as we intend, with no interruptions or intrusions.  We remain masters of our destiny, safely piloting our tiny vessels through wave and wind and shoal.  
Or we can cry out for help.  Cry out for comfort.  Cry out in honesty of fear and uncertainty and acknowledgement of our weakness and inability to cope with the evil in ourselves and the world around us alone.  We can cry out for God to help us.  To save us.  To redeem us.  To vindicate us.  To crush evil once and for all, to purge us and the world around us and everyone in it from the effects of sin and the power and mastery it seeks over us.  
This is Advent.  It makes Christmas morning that much more powerful.  For unto us, a child is born.  Unto us, a Savior is given.  (Isaiah 9:6)  He will not make sense of it all – He will put all to right.  Come, Lord Jesus, come.

One Response to “Making Sense of it All”

  1. william b Says:

    It’s nice to know someone who can put into words what I’ve been trying to say all week. I think your post is spot on. Thanks.

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